After four blogs on a difficult subject, I want to leave you with two important thoughts today.
As Christians, we need to learn how to fight.
We have to FIGHT CONSTANTLY to uphold the truth in our own lives:
“And this is my prayer: that your love may abound more and more in knowledge and depth of insight, so that you may be able to discern what is best and may be pure and blameless for the day of Christ, filled with the fruit of righteousness that comes through Jesus Christ—to the glory and praise of God” (Philippians 1:9-11).
“Do your best to present yourself to God as one approved, a worker who does not need to be ashamed and who correctly handles the word of truth” (2 Timothy 2:15).
And we have to FIGHT GENTLY to share that truth with others:
“And the Lord’s servant must not be quarrelsome but must be kind to everyone, able to teach, not resentful. Opponents must be gently instructed, in the hope that God will grant them repentance leading them to a knowledge of the truth, and that they will come to their senses and escape from the trap of the devil, who has taken them captive to do his will” (2 Timothy 2:24-26).
“Whatever happens, conduct yourselves in a manner worthy of the gospel of Christ” (Philippians 1:27).
I will be taking a week off from my blog to take care of some family matters and to work on a fun (I hope) addition to my website. Until I return, fight the good fight fellow soldiers!
Okay, I promise this is the last post on Captain America: Civil War. I hope you read the other posts, but if you didn’t here’s a quick recap:
Like the Avengers, Christians are called to do battle on the side of good. Our battles are spiritual ones and our enemy is Satan. One of Satan’s great battle strategies has been to divide Christians into multiple denominations and groupings so we will fight against each other instead of presenting a unified message to the world.
Which begs the question: What should we do about it?
Should Christians everywhere lay aside their differences? Should we hammer out an accord we can all sign so we can be one big happy Church again? Should we ignore the ideologies which separate us and present a united front so the world will trust us?
Jesus stressed unity when he prayed to the Father: “I have given them the glory that you gave me, that they may be one as we are one—I in them and you in me—so that they may be brought to complete unity. Then the world will know that you sent me and have loved them even as you have loved me” (John 17:22-23). And Paul said, “Make every effort to keep the unity of the Spirit through the bond of peace” (Ephesians 4:3).
But can we get past all our differences and stand united with people who, although they call themselves Christians, think very differently than we do? Not only are we split along denominational lines, but there are bigger issues which divide us - big questions like: Is the Bible true and reliable? Is faith in Jesus the only way to heaven? If we can’t agree on these issues, should we set them aside and make compromises for the sake of unity?
The Avengers didn’t. By the end of the Civil War movie, there was no resolution of who was right and who was wrong. They still did not agree. They did not reunite. There was only a shared commitment that each of them would keep doing what they could to fight for what they believed in.
Two more big questions which divide Christians are, “What is the purpose of the church in this world?” and “What’s the end game God is working to bring about?”
Like the Church, the Marvel universe has also been dealing with the question, “What is our ultimate purpose?” In Captain America: Winter Soldier, Nick Fury wanted to put huge gun ships in the air to take out hostile threats on land before they did any harm. His plan backfired when the gun ships were reprogrammed to take out the good guys instead of the bad guys. In Avengers: Age of Ultron, Tony Stark wanted to put “a suit of armor around the world” to protect the world from even bigger threats out in space. “Peace in our time…. Isn’t that the ‘why’ we fight? So we can end the fight? So we get to go home?” To end the fight, Stark created a killer machine intent on destroying all human life. So, that didn’t go well either.
Likewise, Christians who believe God’s plan involves peace on earth may try to hurry that peace along by encouraging unity, respect, and love at the expense of truth, justice, and holiness. I’m sorry, but I cannot agree to that.
Here is what I believe in – what I will fight for – what I won’t compromise on:
· The Bible is true and reliable.
· Jesus Christ is the son of God, and faith in Jesus is the only means of salvation.
· God is sovereign. He’s got the “end game” figured out. He will bring it about in his own timing.
· My job as a Christian is to stand firm in my faith, love God, love others, and share the gospel of Jesus Christ.
Because all Christians don’t agree with these points, the Civil War will go on.
Pick a side and suit up, soldier.
In my last two posts, I told you that – if you are a Christian – you are a soldier in God’s army. Your enemy is Satan, and your mission is to stand firm in your faith despite everything Satan throws at you. God also commands us to take the gospel into all the world and to live holy lives, pleasing to him.
The New Testament gives us lots of information to help us “fight the good fight” (1 Timothy 6:12), but have you ever wondered what we are fighting for? What’s the end goal of this battle? What is God trying to accomplish in this world, and how can we help bring it about?
Whether you think about these questions seriously or just make assumptions, what you believe – consciously or unconsciously – about God and his big plans will affect how you live your life. It also affects how Christians are perceived by the world around us.
In the first few hundred years of its existence, the Christian church was asked what it believed about the nature of God, Jesus, and the Holy Spirit based on the teachings of the Bible. The Councils of Nicea (325 AD), Chalcedon (451), and Constantinople (681), among others, answered these questions. They determined what was “orthodox” for Christianity (“conforming to what is generally or traditionally accepted as right or true; established and approved”) and what was “unorthodox” (“contrary to what is usual, traditional, or accepted”). Those who did not accept the orthodox doctrine of the church were removed from the church and no longer considered to be “Christian.”
In 1054, a much bigger dispute split the church in two, with both sides claiming to have the true doctrine about Christianity. Several hundred years later, another split occurred, leaving the Roman Catholic Church on one side and several new Protestant denominations on the other. Today there are at least 8 major protestant groups with literally thousands of individual denominations. Add in the Roman Catholic and Eastern Orthodox churches, and there are a whole lot of people who can’t agree about what is “right or true” about God, the Bible, and Christianity.
Now, back to Captain America for a moment. Is anyone seeing a connection here?
Multiple parties split by different ideas of how to operate, who should be in control, who decides what is good and what is bad.
It was ideologies which split the Avengers apart in Captain America: Civil War. But a good action movie can’t be just about ideologies. You need a villain – an enemy. Who is the enemy in Civil War? Spoiler alert! The enemy was the one guy who didn’t care about any of these things. He just wanted to see the Avengers destroyed. Since he was too weak to destroy them himself, he found a way to get them to fight against each other.
As Christians, we also have an enemy. He’s no weakling. He has “super” abilities because he’s a supernatural being. But he is no match for the One True God, or Jesus Christ, or the Holy Spirit. And he is no match for the Church, the collection of Jesus’ followers here on the earth who preach his message and live for him. He has many ways to fight against us, but what better strategy is there then to split us up, separate us, and get us to waste time and energy fighting against each other. And what better way is there to show the world that the gospel of Jesus is not true than if the followers of Jesus can’t even agree on what the truth of the gospel is.
So what are we to do?
It begins by being a serious Christian – one who asks, “What do I believe and why do I believe that?” That’s what this blog is all about. I hope you will bear with me as I write one more post on Captain America: Civil War. I also hope you will continue to join me – and encourage your friends and church members to join me – because the enemy is out there, and the world is watching.
* Definitions from: Oxford Dictionary
I hope you read my last post about Captain America: Civil War. At the end of that post I promised to come back to tell you more about the battle Christians are called to fight. So here goes.
Diversity and acceptance are the standard of the day. Everyone from the Pope to Morgan Freeman in The Story of God is encouraging us to look past our differences and come together as one big happy family. “Do not judge, or you too will be judged” is a great motto, especially since it’s in the Bible (Matthew 7:1). The Bible also says, “There is neither Jew nor Greek, slave nor free, male nor female, for you are all one in Christ Jesus” (Galatians 3:28).
Yes, we “are all one,” but only if we are “in Christ Jesus.” You see, God does make a distinction. There are two camps: those who are his people, and those who aren’t. There are two sides of the battle, those who fight for God and those who fight against him. When you became a Christian by accepting Jesus Christ as your Savior, you became a child of God. You also switched sides in the great battle between Satan and God.
“Once you were alienated from God and were enemies in your minds because of your evil behavior. But now he has reconciled you by Christ's physical body through death to present you holy in his sight, without blemish and free from accusation” (Colossians 1:21–22).
Satan’s great hatred toward God now extends to you as well, and he would like nothing better than to stop you from being an effective soldier in God’s army (Luke 22:31). That makes each one of us a target for his evil schemes (Ephesians 6:11–12). The objective of our enemy is two-fold: to keep us from enjoying our relationship with God and to keep us from living lives that bring God glory.
So who is this enemy? His name is Satan, which is the Greek word for a false witness or a slanderer. Jesus called him “the evil one,” “the father of lies,” and a “murderer” (Matthew 13:38–39; John 8:44). He is also called “the prince of this world,” “the god of this age,” and “the ruler of the kingdom of the air” (John 12:31, 14:30; 2 Corinthians 4:4; Ephesians 2:2). That means we’re not only engaged in a spiritual battle—we’re fighting behind enemy lines!
Our job is not to destroy Satan or to defeat him. We have been called to do other things, like taking the gospel into the world, making disciples of Jesus, and living a life that brings glory to God. In relation to Satan, we have only one mission: Stand Firm
The Bible tells us: “Be self-controlled and alert. Your enemy the devil prowls around like a roaring lion looking for someone to devour. Resist him, standing firm in the faith, because you know that your brothers throughout the world are undergoing the same kind of sufferings” (1 Peter 5:8–9).
And, in the words of Jesus: “Brother will betray brother to death, and a father his child. Children will rebel against their parents and have them put to death. All men will hate you because of me, but he who stands firm to the end will be saved” (Mark 13:12–13).
The good news is that we are not in this battle alone. The psalmist said: “The Lord is my rock, my fortress and my deliverer; my God is my rock, in whom I take refuge. He is my shield and the horn of my salvation, my stronghold. I call to the Lord, who is worthy of praise, and I am saved from my enemies” (Psalm 18:2–3).
[Most of this post was excerpted from Chapter 2 of my book Standing Firm: Are You Ready for the Battle?]
Come back next Tuesday for Civil War: Part 3: Why We Fight.
Okay, I admit it. I’m a nerd. I anxiously awaited the opening of Captain America: Civil War and made sure I saw it the opening weekend. And when the DVD comes out, I’ll add it to my library of Marvel movies.
At least one movie critic calls these kinds of movies simple escapism. “As long as people want to see good triumph over evil, see a man or woman fly or just forget about life’s problems for a few hours, superhero films will exist.” In my opinion, anyone who thinks superhero movies show a clear line between good and evil hasn’t seen very many superhero movies.
The first Captain America movie was an old-fashioned, good-guys versus bad guys flick. It was set during World War II, which (at least in our collective memories) was a simpler time. The second Captain America movie jumped to the 21st century (thanks to Cap being frozen in polar ice for 70 years). Now the bad guys are deep inside the good guys’ camp, waiting for their big moment to take over the world, and even the good guys are making some really bad decisions. By the time we reach the third installment of Captain America the good guys can’t even agree on what is good and what is bad—hence the name, Civil War.
In Civil War, the heroes are divided over the question of who should control their superheroing activities—themselves or a bureaucratic oversight panel. What caught my attention is how each of the heroes in the movie decided to join the fight. Some were led by ideals, others by respect for the law or government. Some were moved by friendship, others by duty. Some responded just because they were called, happy to be part of something bigger than themselves.
For the most part, they fought because they are soldiers—and that’s what soldiers do.
Soldiers fight. And every child of God is also a soldier of God. We have been called to do battle.
“Timothy, my son, I am giving you this command in keeping with the prophecies once made about you, so that by recalling them you may fight the battle well.” 1 Timothy 1:18
“Fight the good fight of the faith. Take hold of the eternal life to which you were called when you made your good confession in the presence of many witnesses.” 1 Timothy 6:12
“For our struggle is not against flesh and blood, but against the rulers, against the authorities, against the powers of this dark world and against the spiritual forces of evil in the heavenly realms.” Ephesians 6:12
“The weapons we fight with are not the weapons of the world. On the contrary, they have divine power to demolish strongholds.” 2 Corinthians 10:4
If you’re not sure what all this battle talk is about, I’ll be posting two more pieces on this topic over the next week. Until then, let me leave you with one of my favorite ‘soldiering’ songs.
I saw a short video on Facebook yesterday and followed it back to its originating website. At first, I could only find it in Italian, since the website was created by the Vatican, but eventually I found the English version. I thought the video was moving and beautiful—and very dangerous. I invite you to take a minute and a half to view the video and then consider what the Bible has to say about this topic.
In the first place, I would like to say that nothing in the teachings of Jesus or the New Testament writers is against inter-religious dialogue. We are commanded to take the gospel of Jesus Christ to all the world, and to do that we have to be able to have respectful conversations with people who disagree with us about that gospel message. However, the purpose of our dialogue should be to “make disciples … teaching them to obey” everything Jesus commanded us (Matthew 28:19-20). It is not, as the Pope says, to “produce the fruits of peace and justice.”
Didn’t Jesus command us to pursue peace and justice?
The Bible tells us that a heart for justice is a characteristic of Jesus and his people (Matthew 12:18, 23:23; 2 Corinthians 7:11; Hebrews 1:8). Jesus also said, “Blessed are the peacemakers, for they will be called children of God” (Matthew 5:9). And peace is one of the fruits of the Spirit by which all Christians should be known (Galatians 5:22-25).
So why then did Jesus say, “Do not suppose that I have come to bring peace to the earth. I did not come to bring peace, but a sword” (Matthew 10:34)?
In another part of the New Testament the Bible is referred to as a sword. “For the word of God is alive and active. Sharper than any double-edged sword, it penetrates even to dividing soul and spirit, joints and marrow; it judges the thoughts and attitudes of the heart” (Hebrews 4:12).
The word of God divides—the just from the unjust, the saved from the perishing, the children of God from the children of the world. And the gospel of Jesus Christ divides—those who have found true peace with God through faith in Jesus and those who still oppose God by trying to earn his favor in their own way.
Here is something else Jesus had to say: “Enter through the narrow gate. For wide is the gate and broad is the road that leads to destruction, and many enter through it. But small is the gate and narrow the road that leads to life, and only a few find it” (Matthew 7:13-14).
Don’t get caught on the broad road leading to destruction just because it sounds inviting and warm and comfortable. Only one road leads to heaven—the one that begins at the cross.
What is my mission as an author? It's a tough question, but I believe the goal dearest to my heart is to help Christians think about what they really believe and then to act as if they really believe it. It all begins with understanding what it means to be a Christian. Then we have to learn to live like a Christian.